George P. Mitchell, known as the father of fracing, died July 26. He was 94.
Mr. Mitchell revolutionized oil and natural gas drilling from shale plays through the use of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling techniques.
Innovations by Mitchell Energy enabled the company to access natural gas deposits in the Barnett Shale and economically drill wells in the geologic formation. Mr. Mitchell died at home in Galveston of what his foundation described as natural causes surrounded by his family.
“George Mitchell was a true pioneer for the US oil and natural sector,” said Ed Longanecker, president the Texas Independent Producers & Royalty Owners Association (TIPRO). “We thank him for his many contributions, positive impact and related efforts to strengthen and support this important industry.”
His crowning accomplishment was pioneering drilling and completion technologies that created a shale gas revolution. But raised as a child in meager circumstances, Mr. Mitchell worked to give back to the community that made his success possible and lending a hand to the less fortunate struggling to reach their potential, his family said.
Mr. Mitchell and his wife, the former Cynthia Woods, raised 10 children and collaborated on several projects dedicated to making the world a more hospitable and sustainable place. Mrs. Mitchell died in 2009.
“He will be fondly remembered for flying in the face of convention—focusing on ‘what could be,’ with boundless determination—many times fighting through waves of skepticism and opposition to achieve his vision,” his family said in a statement.
Mr. Mitchell graduated first in his class at Texas A&M University in 1940, developed one of the nation's first master-planned communities, pioneered the technology that unleashed the shale gas boom and worked to create a more sustainable planet, his foundation said. One of Mitchell’s abiding interests was technology and Texas A&M. Among many other philanthropic activities, Mitchell donated $52 million to A&M for its new physics building, which bears his name.
“We are and will forever be grateful for the gift of this remarkable life. There’s no doubt that he helped make this world a better place,” his family said.
Mr. Mitchell served as a captain in the Army Corps of Engineers during World War II. He then joined a newly formed wildcatting company, first as a consulting geologist and engineer and later as a partner. He was named president in 1959, and under his leadership the company grew and evolved into one of the nation's largest independent oil and gas producers.
In the late 1960s, Mr. Mitchell led his company to develop a real estate project, The Woodlands, with a 25,000-acre planned community 25-miles north of Houston. Today it has a population of 100,000.
Mr. Mitchell also took leading roles in the rejuvenation of Galveston's historic Strand District by restoring more than 20 buildings and operating three hotels. In 1985, he and his wife revived the mid-winter Mardi Gras celebration in Galveston, which now draws 500,000 visitors annually.
Among a slew of industry honors he received, Mitchell was honored by Hart Energy and Oil and Gas Investor in March 2008 with a gala dinner at its 3rd annual DUG conference in Fort Worth. Industry leaders in shale plays, such as Devon Energy Corp. chairman Larry Nichols and Harold Korell, former chairman of Southwestern Energy Corp., were there to pay tribute to Mitchell. (Devon Energy acquired Mitchell’s company in 2002 for $3.1 billion.)
In 2002, The Gas Technology Institute awarded him a Lifetime Achievement Award at an international conference on unconventional gas in Amsterdam.
For an interview with Mitchell published in Oil and Gas Investor, November 2010, click here.
For a tribute to Mitchell by Nissa Darbonne, click here.